A Beauty Executive Made Tracee Ellis Ross Cry After the ‘Black-ish’ Actress Pitched Her Haircare Line

It’s no secret that the beauty industry has long had an overt and troubling problem with racial representation. For years, people of color called out the limited range of products designed with their specific beauty needs in mind. Black models like Naomi Campbell struggled to find work in beauty campaigns because there was so little racial diversity in the industry. 

As celebrities like Rihanna have stepped up to fill in the gap by using their platform to launch products designed for a wide range of skin tones, the tide has definitely turned. Still, we have a long way to go, and stories of the mistreatment of people of color from beauty industry professionals continue to remind us of the missteps we’ve made and what could go wrong if we don’t work to have more inclusion. 

Tracee Ellis Ross is today a powerhouse actor known for her long run in the hit Girlfriends and her more recent projects Black-ish and Mixed-ish. These important roles have put Ross front and center in discussions about representation in the entertainment industry. Sadly, she also has an important tale about the toxicity of the beauty industry. 

Tracee Ellis Ross has been outspoken about representation in entertainment

Ross is famously the daughter of Motown legend Diana Ross, so she has grown up with the entertainment industry close to her life. In an interview with Marie Claire, Tracee Ellis Ross was clear about how she makes sure to take on the double-edged sword waiting for her as a Black woman in a notoriously vicious industry. 

As Ross’s career continues to take off, she’s made sure to include “a multiyear, multiplatform production deal with ABC that gives her equity in the work she helps create.” She also opened up about how she had to come to terms with her own physical appearance in a world that didn’t always appreciate it. In particular, Ross had a challenging relationship with her own hair. 

She recalls a childhood of weekly salon trips and chemical straighteners to tame her curls. Ross remembers, “my mom would wake up on Wednesday morning with the hot comb on the stove and try and get my edges straight.” Over time, though, Ross learned to see her hair differently: “Learning to love my hair in a world that doesn’t mirror that celebration has been a form of both resistance and the claiming of my identity, my selfhood, my legacy, my ancestral lines, the history that I come from.” 

A beauty executive once made Tracee Ellis Ross cry

Ross took that love for her own hair and rolled it into a passion project in the beauty industry. These days, she’s the diversity and inclusion advisor for Ulta, which is also the company she partnered with as the CEO of Pattern, a hair beauty brand “dedicated to curly, coily, and tight textures.” 

It took a lot of work to get here, though, and Ross recalls one beauty executive who was so cruel to her that she left crying. The executive in question not only rejected Ross’ pitch for her products but “questioned why anyone would buy hair-care products from an actress.” 

Obviously, the executive was wrong and Ross was right, but it took her persistence to bring the dream to fruition in the face of rejection. 

Tracee Ellis Ross has her success to thank for her line

Tracee Ellis Ross attends the Marie Claire's Image Maker Awards 2018 at Delilah LA on January 11, 2018 in West Hollywood, California.
Tracee Ellis Ross | Kevork Djansezian/WireImage

Ross was born in 1972 in LA and got her start in the acting world in 1996. As her filmography demonstrates, her early years were marked with small parts in films that didn’t make much of a splash including 2000s In the Weeds and 1999’s A Fare to Remember

Luckily, Ross didn’t have to muddle through these roles for long. In 2000, she landed the starring role of Joan Clayton on Girlfriends, a groundbreaking series that follows the lives of four women in intimate detail. The series ran for eight seasons and helped make Ross a household name.

Once Girlfriends went off the air in 2008, Ross was able to translate her fame into recurring roles on CSI and a starring part in the short-lived Reed Between the Lines

It wasn’t until landing the part of Rainbow Johnson on Black-ish that Ross truly found another project that let her shine, and since then, the critically acclaimed series has provided the actor an excellent platform for her considerable talents. 

Thanks to her success in Hollywood, Ross had the financial means and platform to create her line.

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